Wednesday 26 April
I always believed that something to do with sex would be the death of me. I dunno man, just a funny feeling. Like I’d turn my head while driving a car to look at a huge pair of boobs and wrap the vehicle around a lampost. Or step into the road while staring at an ass and get hit by a bus. Or fall out of a tree while peeping in a window. Little did I know, that masturbation was to be the catalyst to change my entire life around. If you’ll permit me, allow me to explain.
I was languishing in a hostel bed, somewhere in the shit-hole that is Siem Reap, wasting away. Breakfast was a can of beer and a bowl of rice. Dinner was more beer. Siem Reap has become Siem Reap because of its proximity to Angkor Wat – the world’s largest, religious monument and all round tourist magnet. The local town has boomed(?) into a dump of a place, catering for the enormous influx of foreigners of all shapes and sizes. Much like Aguas Calientes – the mini-America resort that serves Machu-Picchu – it’s just as much blue-rinse coach tour as it is know-it-all backpack destination. Consequently, you’ll find all sorts here, all ages, all nationalities, all manner of humanoids, all turning the place into the mess you see today.
So, when in Rome right? I was going off the rails again. I hadn’t even seen the monument that brought me (and everybody else) here in the first place, and instead, I was donning the kilt pretty much every night, snorting cocaine and getting smashed until dawn. At least, it might have been cocaine – I couldn’t tell at that time of the morning, as I was hoovering a suspicious looking white powder up from an outdoor hostel table as other guests left to catch the sunrise over the temple. I’m a classy guy.
Around about this time I’d managed to finally score an online job. After traveling for 6 years, spending my inheritance money seeing the world, searching for something I could do remotely so I’d never have to work a desk job again, I apply for and get offered a position as a ghostwriter. Now, that isn’t telling ghost stories – as a few people have already enquired – it entails writing copy for a travel blog website which they then claim as their own. Standard practice for most blogs really, travel or otherwise, with extremely large readerships. Hell, it takes me almost a full day to write one post with pictures – so it’s a full-time job if you’re one of the big boys on the block. I’m just small fry – and as I don’t particularly want to put in the work to get any bigger than this, I’m alright with my word-of-mouth pseudo-fame.
I digress. So, I’m writing travel blog articles for this website, and finally getting paid for my work. I’m officially a published writer. Of sorts. I am coming to the point of this story – I promise. One particular weekend a short time ago, I was yet again drinking myself into oblivion, but with the necessity to write four articles by Monday hanging over me. This was to become something of a struggle, as I wrestled my way back into routine and working practice. I’ve not had a proper job in seven odd years.
Anyway, I decided to sober up for the remainder of the weekend, and plow through the articles, staying up all night to do so. It was around 4 o’clock in the morning, two pieces in, that I began to feel a little frisky. You know what I’m talking about – you’ve all been there. A cheeky little sneak attack of the horn. I decided to take a break and rub one out.
As subtly as I could I slipped my laptop into the toilet (which is a common occurrence in hostels – if you see someone taking their laptop into the toilet, it’s not to skype their mum) I pulled up a selection of choice pictures and began to do the deed. Stroking away like there was no tomorrow, shortly before the big finish I experienced one of the worst pains I’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing – across the right side of my head. A searing, fiery headache that came out of nowhere, and pounded my brain into submission. I all but collapsed on the floor – but not before finishing off; it was a lot of effort to get that far and I wasn’t about to waste it.
In a pool of cum and pain, I struggled to my feet, cleaned off, and staggered back to my dorm bed. With the ache crescendoing into an unbearable affliction, my hands were shaking as I frantically dosed ibuprofen, and then self-diagnosed with a google search. There was no doubt in my mind I have a brain tumour – and indeed WebMD confirms my worst fears. I’ve got moments to live, apparently.
OK, so I might have been a somewhat hypochondriacal with my prognosis, but I do discover that I’ve experienced something called a “thunderclap headache”. The checklist was a rap sheet of my condition:
1. You’ve never experienced pain like it before.
2. It comes on incredibly fast, usually localised to one area, and increases in severity over the next 60 seconds.
3. The pain might not fade for an hour or more.
4. You were engaged in some kind of physical activity at the time.
Well, the last one was pretty obvious. I was having a wank. Flaying the emperor. Punching one’s clown. Bucking the slobbering donkey. Etcetera, etcetera. I’m going to have to explain to a doctor that my masturbation session was the catalyst for getting a CT scan.
And explain I do. At around 5 am I email a local British doctor and spill my guts. He responds quickly and insists I go to have a brain scan immediately. I’m booked in to get my noggin looked at that afternoon.
I remember distinctly the moment I walked to that appointment dear readers. I’ll never forget it as long as I live – which I hope isn’t just a couple of weeks. You see, my mum died of a brain hemorrhage. She called my name, and I waited ten minutes before going to see her – because I thought it was just the dog getting out. But there she was, lying face up on the kitchen floor, gone before she hit the ground. As a result, I have extreme anxiety at the slightest pain or obscure feeling in my head. I lie awake at night wondering what that must have been like. I hear the fear in her voice echo in my memory. I hear her voice. I hear her voice.
Walking to that clinic, I convinced myself of two things. One – that given my obvious family medical history, I was going to be given the worst news possible. And two – if that wasn’t the case, I would stop traveling immediately. At least, this kind of traveling. I know better than most how short life is, and it’s too short to be fucking around in this shit-hole, surrounded by a load of 19-year-old children, people who don’t give a rats ass about you, snorting cocaine and pissing up the wall.
I was tired. I was jaded. I had lost the will to continue this hitchhike. And even before the lascivious events of the night in question – I knew it. I’d been two weeks in Siem Reap and I hadn’t even worked up the energy to go and see one of the most beautiful ancient sights in the world. My enthusiasm spoke volumes.
As I lay back on the scanner bed and moved inside the machine to watch the little blinking lights do their work, I felt a peace I’d not felt in a long, long time. I was still anxious yes, but whatever the result, a decision had been made, and either way – maybe I could finally rest. Some time later, my heart beat in my throat as the doctor approached with two x-rays of my brain. She diagnosed me with nothing more than sinusitis.
I must have looked a strange sight as I danced my way back to my hostel down dimly-lit Siem Reap streets. I didn’t care – I had been born again. And, unlike a gambler who finally pays his dues and immediately goes back on their promise to change, I was going to stick to my guns. I’d made a decision, and I’d be damned if I was going back on it. Returning to my hostel, and without a word to anyone, I went straight online and booked a flight.
As soon as I had done so, I burst into tears. I felt an enormous weight lifting from my shoulders. I felt years of running were finally being laid to rest. I felt my depression and anxiety ease. I was going where I actually wanted to be.
I was going home.
Quite where that home is, however, you’ll have to wait and see.
I was 200 bucks down for the most expensive souvenir I’d ever bought – two x-ray copies of my brain scan. You can’t put a price on life though, can you?